CLEARFIELD – Lawrence Township Fire Company No. 5’s volunteer firefighters were present at the Lawrence Township meeting last night to appeal to the supervisors for action regarding its fire engine that has been out of service for more than a month.
Fire Chief Elliott Neeper told the supervisors that it was out of service at last week’s fire at Colonial Courtyard, an assisted living facility for seniors, and firefighters waited for eight minutes without any way to put water on the fire. He said if it had been able to have their engine on-site, they would have been able to contain the fire to the common area of the facility.
Supervisor William Lawhead said the fire engine is out of service waiting for parts that have been on order so it can pass inspection. He pointed out that there are four other fire engines within five miles.
Supervisor Ed Brown asked for clarification on procedure if an engine is out of service. Neeper explained that 911 dispatches the next closest in-service engine on their list.
Neeper said the fire company’s engine has been having out of service issues for years. He presented two pages of repairs the engine needs. Other firefighters present added that the engine is considered not roadworthy, not legal to drive.
It was noted the engine is a 1994 model that was purchased by the township in 1995 for $150,000.
Lawhead said it was a demo model with “all the bells and whistles” but was not what the township should have bought.
Neeper said it was built for flat and urban terrain driving, not the type of hilly terrain and rural roads Lawrence Township has. He said the engine now has more than 60,000 miles, which is beyond the average life for a fire engine.
Lawhead asked if the township needs a tanker, as Glen Richey Fire Company has. Neeper said the fire at the Colonial Courtyard could have been stopped at the common area with 1,000 gallons of water, which they would have had on the company’s fire engine.
Supervisor Glenn Johnston made a motion that the township purchase a new fire engine, and laid out a plan to fund the purchase, including $100,000 from the township’s two-mill tax income, plus a three-year bank loan with annual payments out of the same tax funds, and the balance paid out of reserves from the township’s Act 13 funds. The motion did not receive a second and died on the floor.
Brown made a motion that the fire company “spec a truck,” or put together the specifications they would need on a fire engine, and bring it to the board of supervisors for review.
Jeremy Ruffner, rescue chief for the fire company, said it will be a minimum of a six-month process, until they determine the specs and go through the bid process. He said the fire company needed to have a dollar amount to work with. He pointed out that building the specifications proposal takes a lot of time and leg work. If the fire company came back with a proposal that the township would not approve because of costs, it would be a waste of time. Firefighters in the group noted that a new engine with the bare minimum of requirements would be $350,000 – $400,000.
Brown stipulated that the firefighters keep it sensible, stressing the importance of what is needed to be life-saving and safe for the volunteers. He said the supervisors are committed to providing what they need.
Browns motion was seconded and approved.
Ruffner asked if there were any suggestions for a short-term solution until a new engine is purchased. He said they had approached Glen Richey Fire Company, which has a tanker plus an engine, to place their engine with the fire company temporarily, but Glen Richey refused. He pointed out that the supervisors can authorize this action.
The supervisors talked of what it would take to get the current engine in service, and suggested keeping a look-out for used engines that might be more suitable in the short-term until the township gets through the process of purchasing a new engine.